Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Dec. 18, 2012)

Wally & the Angry Men

By Bob Cooper


Now they want an Inquiry into the Inquiry.

If I were Wally Oppal today I’d be laying on the beach at Waikiki, gulping Mai Tai’s and eye candy in equal measure and trying to forget the whole thing.  The Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry (MWCI) conjures up images like the Titanic, the Space Shuttle explosion, or the Japanese tsunami, and it appears to have pleased about as many people as those things did.

The Inquiry’s troubles began with Wally’s appointment and that’s no criticism of Wally whatsoever.  Despite being eminently qualified with decades of distinguished service as a lawyer, jurist, and inquiry commissioner, he was just the wrong pick for this particular task.  He had been the Attorney-General when the decision was made not to proceed with the 20 remaining counts of murder against Willie Pickton and was also on record as saying there was no need for an inquiry.  He was no doubt following orders from then-Premier Gordon Campbell but he still said the words.  Wally played the hand he was dealt when he should have walked away from it.

Wally sat between an array of some of Vancouver’s most brilliant lawyers on one side and The Angry Men on the other.  Angriest of all was Cameron Ward accompanied by an Angry junior, plus Jason Gratl who started off being fairly affable but grew Angrier as the proceedings wore on.  All champions of the underdog and well-schooled in Class Warfare.

Despite Wally’s best efforts, disaster seemed to lurk at every turn.  The usual activist groups boycotted the inquiry because government refused to pay for lawyers for each & every one of them (Jumping on the train).    

A voicemail message from Wally to then Attorney-General Barry Penner which appeared to show bias against the police became public.  Counsel for Aboriginal Interests, Robyn Gervais, blindsided Wally in an orchestrated public spectacle by withdrawing in a tearful 10 minute speech complaining that the inquiry was too focused on senior police officers and there were too few Aboriginal witnesses bringing to mind the old saying about Too Many Chiefs and…..  This led to a 3 week delay so that new counsel could be appointed and get caught up with the proceedings.  Two very pleasant young Aboriginal lawyers replaced Ms. Gervais, neither of whom were Angry or given to crying jags but somehow managed to carry out their duties.  Then came allegations of sexual harassment by 5 unnamed former Commission staff members resulting in the hiring of yet more lawyers to look into them (all were found to be without merit).  Poor Wally didn’t look like he was having much fun up there.

Darrell Roberts, bumbling about with his torturous theory of ‘fraudulent kidnapping’ which was as pointless as it was endless, seemed on the verge of becoming Angry at times but then made the mistake of disassociating himself with something  The Angry Men did, earning himself the position of traitor in the Class Wars along with a dose of Ward’s catty sarcasm.

To Cameron Ward the previous runs he’d taken at the Vancouver Police in cases like Frank Paul and Jeff Berg were just sparring practice and this was the main event.  The one he’d spent his life training for.  Bursting with the indignation and self-righteousness of a committed zealot he was ready to take on all comers.  Any lawyer bold enough to make an objection was met with such disdain you’d think he’d just slit the throat of a Survival Sex Worker right there in the hearing room.  Ward was equally contemptuous of Wally and the entire process and the frequent clashes between the two were like nothing any of us had ever seen.  At times the man seemed totally unhinged.  The only one to challenge Ward’s conduct in any meaningful way was Eddie Greenspan who went back to the Center of the Universe shaking his head at what he’d witnessed.  Little wonder they think of us as they do.

The vitriol and hyperbole of The Angry Men was accompanied by outrageous allegations of obstruction and cover-up with Ward even accusing Wally of ‘enabling a police cover-up’.  Each time there were promises of proof and blockbuster witnesses and each time it came to nothing.  Ward thought he’d struck gold when a former 911 call-taker named Rae-Lynn Dicks told tales of a sexist atmosphere at the VPD in general and specifically of mistreatment and sexist comments made concerning the rape of a prostitute.  She provided enough detail to enable Deputy Chief Doug Lepard to locate the original case after more than 10 years.  This contained the recordings of the 911 call, radio traffic, and other material which showed that the victim was treated with the utmost care and compassion, the investigation was thorough and the rapist arrested and later convicted, demolishing both Ms. Dicks’ allegations and her credibility and proving that Doug hadn’t lost his touch.   You can take the boy out of the Detective Office but you can’t take the Detective Office out of the boy.  Ward tried unsuccessfully to suppress this rebuttal evidence (ie – the truth) calling it “a waste of time”. 

Their rambling, endless cross-examinations were solely designed to make every cop who testified (except those who agreed with them) look like racist, misogynist, liars & scoundrels.  Questions were framed in the ‘have you stopped beating your wife’ style and prefaced with or couched in a speech so lengthy that in some cases it had to be repeated so the witness could distinguish between the question & the editorial.  It was like they were competing for the Most Incompetent/Obnoxious Lawyer Since Sheldon Goldberg award.

This was all in stark contrast to the performance of skilled barristers like Len Doust, Sean Hern, Tim Dickson, Ravi Hira, Greg DelBigio, and Dave Crossin.  Polished, cool, objective, & always respectful (in other words, professional), each could accomplish in 3 minutes what The Angry Men couldn’t do in 3 days.  It was like watching a surgeon deftly wielding a scalpel as opposed to a drunken butcher thrashing about with a meat axe.  A recording of the proceedings should be shown in law schools everywhere as ‘how’ and ‘how not to’ examples.

In the days prior to the release of the final report the BC Criminal Liberties Association, other ‘progressive’ law groups, and editorial columnists were already slamming it as flawed and incomplete.  These are the same people that are always admonishing the rest of us to wait until all of the evidence is in and not rush to judgment.

The conclusions & recommendations were pretty much what most of us expected.  I found some of them valid, others not so much, but I’ll leave that for another time.  I was very glad to see a stinging rebuke of Ward’s conduct and one can only hope the Law Society might take a similar interest.

As far as implementation goes, I hope Wally’s not holding his breath.  With this government’s revenues and polling numbers dropping faster than RIM stock the best you’ll see is promises to do everything after the election although you might see the Premier re-jig that stupid line she used at the Filipino picnic and tell everyone that in her heart she’s a sex trade worker.

As I watched the news last night I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Wally as he stood up there trying to deliver the product of all his labor and being rudely heckled and insulted by the very people he’d bent over backwards to help.

Like I’ve often said, no good deed goes unpunished.



Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.



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